Music is one of the greatest tools an artist can use to inspire, teach and grow. Hip-hop is a genre that never stops growing and is easily one of our favs. It’s a genre that can be changed by one artist, one album or even one song. The best artists push the boundaries of rap and help it evolve while embracing the epic artists that came before them. Because we love hip-hop so much, we wanted to take the time to celebrate five of the most influential hip-hop artists in history. This is our way of saying thanks for the passion that these artists put into their careers and for loving and respecting the art of rap music.

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Amaru Shakur was an American rapper, producer, actor and poet. He has sold over 75 million records worldwide and is consistently ranked as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. 

Shakur began his career as part of the hip hop group Digital Underground, eventually branching off as a solo artist and releasing his first album, 2Pacalypse Now in 1991. Over half of his eleven studio albums have sold in excess of three million copies each. Two of his releases, 1996’s All Eyez On Me and his Greatest Hits collection, have been certified Diamond, with sales of over 10 million copies each.  Beyond his musical career, Tupac also found success and critical acclaim as an actor, starring in films Juice, Poetic Justice, Above The Rim, Gridlock’d, and Gang Related.  

In December 2016, it was announced that Tupac Shakur would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first solo hip-hop artist to be recognized for inclusion.  The ceremony took place in Brooklyn, New York on April 7, 2017 and included a musical tribute from Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys, T.I.. Tupac’s life and legacy continues to impact and influence culture today. He continues to influence and inspire new generations with his unmatchable music and magnetism, messages of empowerment and individual style. 

Tupac Poem T Shirt
Tupac Poem T Shirt
Tupac River Poem T Shirt
Tupac River Poem T Shirt
Tupac Family Tree T Shirt
Tupac Family Tree T Shirt

 

The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls)

Tupac had the entire West Coast bumping to his jams, but there was someone else dominating the hip-hop game on the East Coast. The Notorious B.I.G, known as Biggie for short, was the king of New York hip-hop in the 90’s and is recognized as one of the greatest artists in the genre’s history. Every time Biggie dropped a rhyme, the whole world heard it. He was the definition of a superstar.

Biggie dropped out of school when he was 17 years old. One thing that kept the kid from Brooklyn out of trouble was rapping. His smooth delivery and illustrative lyrics where exceptional for telling stories of the streets. Biggie put together a short mix of his work and passed it around the city. The tape quickly gained popularity, eventually ending up in the hands of Sean Combs (AKA Puff Daddy), the owner of Bad Boy Records. Biggie signed with Puff’s label, sparking the beginning of a legendary duo.

In 1994, Biggie released his debut album Ready to Die, and the hip-hop community was turned upside down. After just one album, Biggie was arguably the most popular rapper in the world. Today, this album is certified 6 x Platinum. His second and final release, Life After Death, is certified 11 x Platinum and is one of the top 10 best-selling rap albums of all-time. Biggie’s music continues to burn like a strong flame, staying relevant and influencing the genre to this day.

Wu-Tang Clan

In 1991, cousins Robert Diggs (known by his stage name RZA) and Gary Rice (or GZA) were both signed to record deals that didn’t work out. They weren’t getting the creative freedom they needed, and the only way they could get that was if they came together. They decided to form a group named Force of the Imperial Master, which would soon be known by another name; Wu-Tang Clan.

By 1993, Wu-Tang grew to have nine members, all of them with a different sound, vibe and story. They released their first album titled Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which may be the single greatest hip-hop album of all time. Two men who had been told they wouldn’t make it time and time again had come together and made it happen. They would go on to have four platinum and four gold albums, including several game-changing solo albums from members of the group. They are still putting out some of the best music in the genre today.

Wu-Tang is unlike any rap collective. In an era where hip-hop instrumentals were getting more complex and sometimes overproduced, they dared to be different. The beats are layered with sounds of the streets, putting the listener right into the shoes of each member of the group. The lyrics tell stories that paint a picture for the audience. Wu-Tang taught the hip-hop community that if you believe in what you are doing and you make sacrifices despite being doubted, you can make it.

Kendrick Lamar

In 2009, a young rapper who went by the name K-Dot was starting to get some serious buzz. When Lil Wayne cosigned a mixtape for K-Dot, the Compton, CA rapper would only get bigger. The mixtape would blow up and K-Dot would soon change his name, knowing that he was moving on to something bigger than the mixtape scene. Kendrick Lamar was born.

Kendrick Lamar is one of the most influential rappers of the past decade and he’s worked endlessly to earn that praise. He doesn’t wait for the genre to change. He changes it. He stays ahead of the curve. His 2012 triple-platinum album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City brought the old school flow back to life with a new school twist, and is widely considered one of the best rap albums of the last 20 years. His next release came in 2015 with his album To Pimp a Butterfly, which consisted of jazz and funk instrumentals that were unlike anything people had heard before. Again, he was ready to change the game.

Kendrick’s most recent release is his 2017 album titled DAMN. This album has elements of new school hip-hop, rock, jazz and more. He never stops evolving. He never stops learning. He has inspired not only the rappers who are coming up today, but rappers who thrived 20 years before him. He also inspires his fans, letting them know that if you work hard enough, you can make it just like the kid from Compton.

Trippie Redd

At just 21 years old, Trippie has solidified himself as one of rap’s greatest. But to call him just a rapper would be an understatement. He’s one of the best singer’s in hip-hop as well. Growing up, Trippie loved rock music and that was a massive impact on his music style. Some of his favorite artists include KISS, Nirvana and Simple Plan.

After graduating high school, Trippie moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in rap music. By 2017, he released a mixtape titled A Love Letter to You. Atlanta has always been an area that has a strong contribution to hip-hop, but at this time a lot of the music was sounding the same. Trippie’s mixtape was massive because it was unique. Within just a few months, the lead single “Love Scar’s” had 8 million views on YouTube and 13 million streams on SoundCloud. Trippie’s blend of rock and rap has truly pushed hip-hop to another level, inspiring a whole new style for the industry.

Trippie Redd has released 3 albums since his lightening quick rise to fame, and all of them made the top 5 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. His newest album Pegasus made it to number 2, and showed that the young and hugely talented star is going to keep working hard and developing his music. Trippie has influenced the hip-hop community immensely and opened a new door to the beautiful genre.

Interested in checking out what we are listening to here at Spencer’s? Check out our blog so you can listen to all of our rockin’ Spotify playlists!